The Seventh Circuit issued a ruling this week addressing transfer of work from union to non-union workers. In Certco, Inc. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local Union No. 695, Nos. 12-3387 & 12-3487 (7th Cir. July 17, 2013), the court found that a district court did not err when it enforced an arbiter’s decision to order that bargaining unit work in new warehouses be returned to union workers. In Certco, the employer opened three new warehouse locations. It also closed a freezer at its Verona location, and moved it to the new Femrite location. The work at the new location was done by non-union employees. Article 12 of the collective bargaining agreement reached with Teamsters Local 695 provided that Certco “shall not direct or require its employees or persons other than the employee in the bargaining units here involved, to perform work which is recognized as the work of the employees in said units.”
The union filed a grievance, and ultimately asked an arbitrator to return work at the new locations to the union employees based on the collective bargaining agreement. The arbitrator ordered any work done in the freezer at the Femrite location and any work transferred from the Verona location after July 27, 2009 to be re-designated to the union. The arbitrator’s ruling did not cover any new work that had never been done at the original location at Verona. Certco filed suit in the district court and asked the district court to vacate the arbitrators’s award. According to Certco, in 2006, the NLRB did not deem the jobs at the newer Helgesen location to be accretions to the bargaining unit and as such were not automatically within the union’s jurisdiction. Certco said the NLRB issued the same decision in 2010 about their new Femrite location. Based on those facts, Certco argued that the arbitrator’s decision essentially overturned those two decision by the Board, and therefore exceeded his authority.
The Seventh Circuit disagreed, finding that the arbitrator only resolved questions regarding Article 12 of the CBA. Since the arbitrator did not deal with the NLRB rulings, the arbitration ruling was valid. Furthermore, the court found that in 2010, the NLRB did not make a decision, instead the regional attorney and general counsel chose not to issue a complaint. The court found that failure to issue a complaint is not the same as the board making a decision on the merits. Thus, the Seventh Circuit upheld the District Court’s decision upholding the arbitrator’s decision returning the bargaining unit work to union workers.
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